August 24, 2004
I AM A REVIEWING MACHINE!
Now that I have that out of the way…
Written by Steven Goldman and Elizabeth Genco, Drawn by Various
Published by FWD Books
Occasionally, someone strikes gold with a great idea. Steven Goldman is the latest to hit that jackpot. Modernizing the idea of the ferryman who carries the dead across the river Styx, Goldman’s books (there are two one-shots so far, the second hitting shops in October) follow taxi drivers who pick up the souls of the departing and help them put things right before heading to the other side. Each soul has two hours before their portal opens, so there isn’t much time. The cabbies themselves are sort of trapped in a limbo of their own, if you will; driving the cab is something of a karmic punishment for mistakes made while living. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people, though; each driver is a strong personality, and they can become deeply involved with the dead and their last moments, adding strength and tension to the human drama aspect of the book. And there’s always the hope for the cabbies that someday, maybe, they will finally be redeemed and allowed to take one of those portals themselves.
That isn’t to say that everything in the books is executed with perfect precision; it isn’t. The scripting is a bit awkward at times, though more often than not, his people seem very, very real. The art also isn’t necessarily as emotionally nuanced as it could be to make the stories more effective. And I would definitely like to see a bit more development of the drivers as the books continue. In essence, STYX TAXI is a procedural drama series, and procedurals rise and fall on the depths of their characters. Think about how much better the excellent television series WITHOUT A TRACE has become since they began exploring the lives of the cast in context of the cases they’re working. It gives an added dimension to the series.
STYX TAXI was a book that I found in the small press area at Comic-Con International, and I’m glad I did. It has terrific potential that it needs to build on; Steven Goldman is a talented guy who could really break out. The book needs to keep building, and have enough solid material to make a trade paperback and get into the bookstores, which is solid advice for any small press publisher. Grade: B
As I mentioned above, STYX TAXI is a procedural TV drama waiting to happen. With its anthological nature and small main cast, it isn’t even an expensive one. The effects budget would be limited, and you can basically pick a city in which to film and go from there. Operating from the idea that there are cabbies of this kind wandering all over the planet, each with their own “beats,” it all comes down to whatever kind of operating budget you want to work with. It’d also be an ideal series in which to look at young directing talent, because the stories will require different visual natures in order to tell them with the most effectiveness. Again, a cost effective idea at work. I can only imagine that STYX TAXI’S time in the spotlight will be soon.
”AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY SIMILAR!”
A whole bunch more reviews.
SAME DIFFERENCE AND OTHER STORIES
Written and Drawn by Derek Kirk Kim
Published by Top Shelf Comics
This is a stunning and powerful collection of stories from a guy whose work I was completely unfamiliar with. The lead story, an eighty-page novella of its own, is a quiet, reflective look at the nature of past wrongs, guilt, and fear, wrapped around an amusing buddy driven road comedy. I’ve read very little in comics that reminded me of my favorite prose novelist, John Irving, but “Same Difference” came close. The smaller stories in the back are hit and miss, but gems like “The Shaft” are nearly worth the price of the book on their own. There’s an emotional core to Kim’s work that is both elating and frightening, as you are constantly opened to feelings that you yourself might be trying to bury. SAME DIFFERENCE is a humanist work from a talented artist. Grade: A
NUTS AND BOLTS
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Komikwerks
My basic rule of anthologies is this: 25% of the material will be really good. 50% will be okay. 25% will be unreadable. NUTS AND BOLTS defies this rule.
This terrific little anthology has a much higher percentage of “good” stuff, approaching nearly 40%. Of course, with creative talent like Keith Giffen, Art Thibert, Cynthia Martin (where has she been?), Bruce Zick (ditto) and Shannon Denton on board, you stand a much better chance of producing something eminently readable. As a long-time Giffen fan, I was very pleased to see him as a writer and/or co-creator on seven of the fourteen stories in the book. It felt like comic book Christmas.
The production quality of the book is also very good, and I think if Komikwerks can keep producing projects with this quality level, they’re gonna be in good shape. This was my first exposure to their stuff. I don’t think it’ll be the last. Grade: B+
Written and Drawn by Stephen R. Buell
Published by Lost In The Dark Press
“So Jesus came back.”
With those words begins one of the more potentially interesting books I’ve seen this year. Keisha, a seemingly normal young woman, now sits in front of her television wearing a gas mask, as the Savior has returned to Earth, appearing in the skies and announcing he will be taking the believers back to Heaven with him in 48 hours. The world, as you might guess, loses its shit.
Looting, rioting, suicides, you name it- as Jesus floats above, everything below becomes mass chaos. This is a mini-series, so questions like “Is that really Christ?” are unanswered at the moment, but this has the feel and ring of an instant gothic horror classic in the making. It’s so tasty that I want to option and direct it myself. The public never gets tired of “end of the world” movies, and this is about as “end” as it gets. Buell’s art doesn’t really grab me in any way, but his story has left me on the end of a very large fishhook. Grade: B+
FIRST LADY #1
Written by Patrick Neighly and Drawn by Stephen Buell
Published by Mad Yak Press
It’s the future, and the way we get our President has changed drastically. No longer chosen by the Supreme Court, a series of quantum supercomputers determines which living American is the most ideal candidate best suited to fulfill what the public wants out of a chief executive. Only this time, there seems to be a tiny mistake; the computers have chosen a 16-year old girl, Julia Platt.
There’s obviously a lot more at work here, as we follow not only Julia’s weirdest day ever, as she’s kidnapped and taken to the White House to be sworn in, but the doctor who autopsied the previous office holder and who has discovered that things just aren’t as kosher as they should be. And then there’s the question of why the computers chose Julia, and whether or not that was a deliberate manipulation on someone’s part.
Buell’s art here is actually a bit more effective that his work on VIDEO, and Neighly’s dialogue is pretty amusing, particularly in a terrific scene wherein Julia tells her mother what’s happened. This is a quiet, but potentially interesting, book. Grade: B
SAVAGE DRAGON #116
Written and Drawn by Erik Larson
Published by Image Comics
No matter how you may feel about Erik Larson, now the publisher at Image Comics, you have to give him credit for one thing: he does his very best each and every month to put out an entertaining comic and he busts his ass to make sure the reader gets their monies’ worth. In this issue you get a twenty-two page lead story, an eight page backup story, a single page backup story, and two pages of letter columns. Whew!
Of course, in those first twenty-two pages, you also get Larson’s standard over-the-top mega-heroics, as Dragon and his wife take on bunches of giant ugly monsters in an effort to save a group of missing women. No one else working today revels in the classic bombastic Kirbyesque storytelling the way Larson does. Never once in reading this book do you ever get the sense that there’s any sense of cynicism at play in what’s happening; Larson is having just as much fun making the comic as he wants you to have reading it. Any way you look at it, SAVAGE DRAGON continues to be refreshing month in and month out for that very reason. Grade: B+
SYLVIA FAUST #1
Written by Jason Henderson and Drawn by Greg Scott
Published by Image Comics
Sylvia is a young woman blessed with mystical powers who has come to New York for purposes unknown. She is apparently supposed to learn to blend in with non-magical folk and to protect herself (from what, we don’t know). Tim is a flustered young man who runs a revival movie house. If you ask me, they’re destined for love.
Actually, they have sort of a “meet cute,” as Sylvia’s earliest job attempt as a telemarketer goes horribly, humorously wrong. It’s a right place, right time deal when she meets Tim, who is having a meltdown about the lack of sobriety of the classic movie star whom he’s running a film festival of. It’s a subtle nod to one of my all-time favorite films (MY FAVORITE YEAR) and it instantly gave the creative team a bit more operating credit with me as a reader.
The script is a bit obtuse at times; I know they want to drag out some mysteries about who Sylvia really is and what her purpose is to be, but dancing around it felt very inorganic at times. And while the cover on the by Scott is a stunning and detailed work, the inside art feels so much looser that it can be distracting. Still, this is an interesting start. Grade: B
HAWAIIAN DICK: THE LAST RESORT #1
Written by B. Clay Moore and Drawn by Steven Griffin
Published by Image Comics
The first HAWAIIAN DICK series had quite a buzz on it when it came out, and New Line Pictures snapped up the rights rather quickly. However, I never read it. That makes issue one of this second series my introduction to the world of island private eye Byrd and friends, and it’s sufficiently intriguing enough that I definitely want to see that first book.
Byrd is your traditional run down P.I., working the Hawaii beat. Not exactly Thomas Magnum, mind you, perhaps a bit closer to a younger Jim Rockford. This time he’s off to a resort on one of the smaller island, as mobs both Italian and Irish are competing for land to develop as a resort, and each side wants Byrd to spy on the other. Needless to say, being stuck between those groups is a very bad place to be.
Moore’s script is zippy; his dialogue is concise, and his scenes play with a brisk pacing. There’s a lack of the current love for “decompression” here. Griffin’s art and colors are a character unto themselves, making HAWAIIAN DICK one of the market’s more unique looking titles. This is quite good. Grade: A-
THE SYMBIOTES #1
Written by Davis R. Vaughn and Drawn by George Lippert
Published by Drive Comics
I really wanted to love this comic.
I’m a sucker for folks who try and create books wholly on the computer, generating sequential art on a massive level, and putting out a unique looking book with gorgeous production values. I want them to succeed, because I want to see more people do it. I think there’s a future in it. But I’m not sure where this book is going to land.
SYMBIOTES starts off with a literal bang, an action sequence that look visually arresting. But that’s also where the book’s problems kick in. It isn’t until much later in the book that we are told what was really going on, and even then, the explanation is confusing, to say the least. And that problem becomes an epidemic.
Most of the time as I was reading SYMBIOTES I had very little clue as to what was going on. There are various alien races, there seems to be an undercurrent of humanity committing genocide against them, but to use an old phrase, I needed a scorecard to figure it all out, and there wasn’t one to be found. The inside front cover was in desperate need of spelling out some of the machinations going on in the book.
Still, some scenes work really well that are played at a basic level. There’s a moment when one of the lead characters has to explain to his friends that he is giving up his dreams, and because they don’t know he is an illegal half-breed who passes for human, he can’t tell them why. It’s quiet and effective, and it shows potential. There are a couple of other good moments like that as well. I’ll give this book another chance. Grade: C
Whew! See you in seven!
E-mail me from the link provided. Review materials may be sent to: Marc Mason, P.O. Box 26732, Tempe, AZ, 85285. You can also find me at The Comics Waiting Room and Happy Nonsense
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